Here’s what it’s like inside the bunkers Ukrainian troops are living in every day

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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

Ukrainian soldiers stationed near the village of Luhanske were in their bunker on the night of July 31st when an 82mm mortar shell landed directly on top, according to the Kyiv Post.

Their fortification did its job: No one was injured.

The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Russian separatists proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

Russia has funded, managed and supplied weapons to these rebel states ever since. Moscow admitted it was helping the rebels in late 2015 after repeated denials to the contrary.

Since the 2015 Minsk II peace agreement, in which Kiev and Russian-backed separatists agreed to withdraw their tanks and heavy artillery from the 250 mile long front lines, the war has largely turned into stagnant trench warfare.

Reminiscent of World War I, the two sides these days mostly lob mortars and grenades and trade sniper fire at and with each other. In response, soldiers on both sides dig networks of trenches and deep bunkers for protection.

And the bunkers have only gotten more complex and elabarote over the last three years.

Here’s what they look like.


The soldiers first dig out a hole, which is usually at least waist-deep. Then they put down a layer of timber and cover it with dirt. The bunkers are also sometimes fortified with concrete.

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Like this.

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Sometimes the bunkers are less fortified, like this Russian-backed separatist one that appears to have little to no dirt on top.

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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Ukrainian soldiers live, sleep and eat in these trenches and bunkers for weeks at a time.

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Here’s the inside of one bunker containing a mattress, stove and ammunition near Avdiivka.

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The bunkers vary in size and depth, and some even reportedly have electricity and televisions.


But wood supporting the bunkers rots after about a year, forcing the soldiers to dig them out and start again.

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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Russian-backed separatists are also building increasingly elaborate networks of trenches and bunkers.

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“We sometimes see cement mixers and excavators at their lines – they seem to be building real bunkers there, bringing local civilians in to work,” Ukrainian Lt. Anatoliy Tsymbaliuk told the Kyiv Post.

The above shot is of a Ukrainian soldier standing in a network of trenches and bunkers near Avdiivka.


The Ukrainian and rebel lines are oftentimes only a few hundred yards away, separated by a bomb hole-littered no man’s land.

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“In trench warfare, a soldier rarely sees his foe’s face,” one soldier named Valeriy Kupriyenko told the Kyiv Post.


Some Ukrainian soldiers have even begun calling it the “Great Standoff.”

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While the majority of fighting is at a distance, rebels have been known to execute late-night sorties, like one near Krasnohorivka in July in which two Ukrainians and six rebels were killed after a Russian-backed commando attempted an assault on government lines.